Finland | Universal loses Market Court case over Internet Music rights

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18 March 2015

Two sons of late Albert Järvinen, best known as guitarist for the Finnish rock’n roll band Hurriganes, took a clear victory over Universal Music Finland in Helsinki Market Court over internet rights of two albums originally released in the early 1970’s. The case was processed on behalf of the artist rightholders with legal aid provided by the Finnish Musicians’ Union.

The court stated, that Universal was not entitled to make the recordings available to the public through the internet, as the rights were only granted with regard to physical phonograms. Universal was unable to prove the existence of an agreement between the artist and the label allowing internet use. In addition, Universal could not convince the court of either a general business practice or a silent acceptance enabling them to use the recordings in internet services. The ruling obliges Universal to take out the first two Hurriganes albums from internet services, pending a fine of 50,000 euros.

Ahti Vänttinen, the President of the Finnish Musicians’ Union, is pleased with the outcome. “We believe that a large part if not most of the older recorded repertoire from any country now utilized in internet music services worldwide is not sufficiently licensed by the artists. Labels cannot just assume they have the rights, but they have to agree on them with the artists. It is not credible to presume that record deals in the 1960’s, 1970’s or even 1980’s would have included provisions on internet use. Only in the late 1990’s we started to see provisions dealing with electronic distribution, and even today some contracts are still silent on these types of utilization.”

Benoît Machuel, the General Secretary of the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) is happy with the decision as well: “We welcome this ruling, which makes clear that the record majors cannot unilaterally re-interpret their unfair contracts to make them even more unfair to performers. The time has come to re-shape business models and legislations, in order to provide performers with a fair share of the revenue generated by their music online”.

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